After Tropical Storm Gordon barreled through the Gulf of Mexico on Labor Day, Manatee County beaches seem to have gotten a bit of a red tide reprieve.
But, in the essence of the algae bloom and its well-known unpredictability, there’s no telling how long the improved conditions will last.
Beachgoers at Manatee Public Beach on Wednesday afternoon all basically said the same thing: The dark color of the water wasn’t the greatest, but conditions were better than they were expecting.
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It was that way for Jayma Boyd, who lives in Tampa and has been to Anna Maria Island several times. Boyd said the water appeared more “algae-looking” but not as bad as she thought it was going to be.
Her advice to those worried about visiting the beach?
“Just treat it as normal, don’t let it scare you off,” she said. “It really is looking better.”
Jane Males and Phil Holloway have been visiting the area from the United Kingdom since 2000 and hadn’t seen the water this dark, they said. Still, they were happy that the beach was cleaned up and there was no apparent “red tide smell.”
“I expected it to be a lot worse,” Males said. “I thought the smell was going to be much worse but it isn’t bad at all.”
Researchers say that while the tropical storm may have helped push some of the surface bloom away from beaches, a shift in winds can change everything.
“Offshore winds are keeping those effects away from the coast right now,” said Vincent Lovko, staff scientist at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium. “But when those winds eventually change around, though they are not supposed to for several days, but once they do move back toward shore we could see a reformation of that bloom.”
Lovko went on to say that we are approaching a peak time of year for red tide. If there wasn’t an already-active bloom, he said, we likely would see one start to form along the coast.
“This time of year often has conditions that are appropriate for a bloom, so since one is already in the area there is reason to think that it might stick around,” Lovko said.
Beachgoers interested in monitoring specific conditions at various southwest Florida beaches can visit Mote Marine Laboratory’s beach conditions reporting system.
Meanwhile, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission released its midweek report on red tide levels across the state on Wednesday.
In Manatee County, medium to very low levels of the algae bloom were reported, continuing a trend of decreased levels of the bloom.
“Relative to last week, multiple locations in Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte and Collier counties showed decreased cell concentrations, and no ‘high’ concentrations were observed in Manatee County,” the report says. “Surface currents over the past several days are likely playing a role in transporting cells of K. brevis to the northwest, and are expected to continue based on short-term forecasts.”
A volunteer red tide cleanup sponsored by nonprofit Suncoast Waterkeeper and community committee Friends of Palma Sola Bay is scheduled for Saturday morning at the Palma Sola Causeway, an area where Manatee County-sponsored cleanups did not reach.
Volunteers will converge on the east end of causeway from 8-10 a.m. and are asked to bring masks, heavy gloves and sturdy, closed footwear, according to a news release. Hats and sunblock are also highly recommended.
Water and buckets will be provided by the sponsoring organizations. Small shovels or other trash-picking will make the job easier, organizers say.
“While the red tide has been dissipating, its impacts are still far from over,” said Andy Mele, Suncoast Waterkeeper. “We are doing what we can because our options are so limited.”
Small business assistance
Also on Wednesday, the Manatee County Government and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced that a SBA Disaster Loan Outreach Center will assist businesses that have been affected by red tide.
The center will open at the Manatee County Island Branch Library, at 5701 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, on Friday. It will operate until further notice and no appointments are necessary, officials said.
SBA representatives will be available to provide information about disaster loans, answer questions and assist businesses in completing the SBA application, according to the news release.
On its first day of operation, the center will open at 11 a.m. but its normal weekday hours will be 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The center will also be open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
To receive additional disaster assistance information, visit SBA’s website at www.sba.gov/disaster. Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800)-659-2955 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
A dead manatee washed up in a Bradenton canal over Labor Day weekend and is suspected to be a victim of red tide, according to the FWC.
The manatee was a “very decomposed” adult female that was taken to the FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, officials said. The necropsy’s results could take more than a week to come back, researchers say.